This is the time of the year to think about the selection of the birds you will keep for next year’s breeding. These are the most critical decisions that you have to make in order to improve your stud of Glosters. Although sometimes success is a matter of luck, there are basic rules that must generally be followed to achieve that success.
1) Never make a decision before a bird is completely moulted out. Some promising birds can be very disappointing after the moult, where others will bloom like a flower and surprise you. Disposing of a young Gloster before the moult is a definite mistake, no matter what it looks like as a baby.
2) Never assume that a good looking bird will produce good birds. The genetic makeup of a bird is very complex, and some champions will never produce a show bird in their lifetime. With linebreeding, by limiting the number of genes in the background, you improve your chances of having the best birds producing your best babies.
3) Visual selection is just as important as pedigree. When having to choose between similar birds, refer to their pedigree and pick the bird with better ancestors. Never keep a poor quality bird for the sake of its pedigree. On the other hand, never choose a bird solely based on its appearance, always balance out looks vs pedigree.
4) Feet and legs are a good indicator of the quality of the Gloster. Birds with large feet and legs have a course appearance. Focus on birds with small feet and short legs.
5) Birds with lumps are a Gloster breeder’s nightmare. No matter what people say, lumps are inherited, or at least the incapacity for a bird to moult out healthily. Old birds with health problems can develop lumps. Healthy birds that are less than 4 years old should not have lumps. I believe that using yellows (intensive, hard-feathered birds) does not always solve the problem. In some lines when the problem is recurrent, even the yellows develop the lumps. If selected and paired properly, buff to buff pairings should produce birds that are lump free. I found that white ground birds are a big help with no detriment to the quality of the buffs and greens. In some lines where many yellows are used, as soon as 2nd generation buffs are paired together they produce birds with lumps. This is an indication that the wrong type of feather quality is retained, forcing the use of yellows to counteract the softness of feather.
6) Brightness of color is not necessarily an indicator of good feather quality. It is an indicator of pigmentation. Most people tend to confuse the different issues and blend them into one general rule. Genetics are not that simple.
WHICH COCKS TO KEEP
1) Fertile cocks can usually be used for 5 years, as long as they produce the quality you need. Cocks that are good feeders are invaluable. Always think twice before disposing of a healthy fertile cock.
2) Cocks that don’t fertilize eggs can be tried again a second year with a proven hen. If you mate a cock presumed sterile with an unproven hen, you are not helping your situation. Use you best breeding hen to try to show him the way. If by the second year it is still not working, get rid of him. Even if it may work on the third year, you are taking the chance of ruining good hens again. Give it up.
3) The idea of mating your best cock to as many hens as possible can have a negative impact on your stud. Most of your better youngsters will be closely related and in no time you will find yourself looking for an outcross. Make sure you keep brothers and cousins of your best cock birds. You can use them to diversify your gene pool without changing the bloodline too drastically. And you may just be very surprised to discover which cock bird is producing your best babies. Most of the time the brothers or sisters of champions are your best bet, not matter what they look like.
4) Cocks that are aggressive in the breeding cage are a nuisance. If possible get rid of them. Temper, like everything else, is inherited. Try to use good natured cocks that are of some help in the breeding cage.
5) Gloster cocks that look like hens are your best asset. They are usually of outstanding type and smaller than most cocks. You can base a whole stud on such males, their daughters will be extremely difficult to beat at the shows. It is usual to have large males displaying a lot of type, but this will limit your show specimens to the hens. If you are not careful eventually your hens will get bigger, and by that time it will be too late to correct the situation. Be critical of the size of your males, this will keep your stud under control and allow you to show your best cocks without being penalized.
6) Make sure your cock birds display intense coloring. As a rule, your hens will show less color. If your males are not well colored, your hens will be very dull looking. You don’t want to end up with a whole stud of washed out birds. But it is very difficult to get good color on wide feather, so sometimes you will have to compromise between type and color.
WHICH HENS TO KEEP
1) Fertile hens can easily be used for 4 years, as long as they produce the quality you need. The success of a stud is based on the breeding abilities of its hens, so make sure you don’t end up with useless good looking hens. With the Gloster standard calling for small birds, there is no reason not to have good producing hens. If you use hens with large crests, you can trim the crest before the breeding season, it will grow back at the next moult, and by doing this you will give your hens a chance to raise their family like normal canaries. Make sure you trim the crest a least a month before breeding, to give the hen a chance to get used to see the world she lives in.
2) Breeding abilities are inherited. Always consider the daughters of your best breeding hens first, as long as they display the type you need. An average quality breeding hen will always surpass an unproductive top quality hen. Remember that if you practice linebreeding any one of your hens can produce that champion, so don’t put all your eggs in the same basket by focusing on your best hen. Make sure you keep good breeding hens that are related to your best bird. Chances are your next champion will come from one of them.
3) If you use large hens for breeding your stud is doomed. Their sons will be even larger and you are on your way to failure. Small cobby hens are a must. They will usually breed better anyway, so you are not missing anything.
4) Hens must have a lot of type. Most cocks will be longer and thinner than their mother. If you keep long slim hens, their sons will not display the required standard and will probably destroy the quality of any hen you try to use to improve them. Hens with good type may throw cocks that look like them, and set you on your way to the top.
WHICH CORONAS TO KEEP
1) The Corona is probably the most difficult type canary to produce, and most people don’t have many top quality birds to pick from. The experienced breeder knows that many compromises must be made in order to produce good Coronas.
2) It is usual to find the best crest on the longer birds. Longer feather allows for a more weeping crest, and for softer texture. If you make a selection uniquely on the impressive crests, you will end up with a whole stud of long birds. Keep in mind that you must end up with a show bird that displays good body type.
3) Never keep a bird with a faulty crest (split crest, off-center, shield shaped, etc.). Try to limit your selection to birds showing a round crest with definite center. The most difficult part to produce is the ” frontal ” part. There you want an abundance of feathers. Birds lacking in the frontal will never make good stock birds. You may want to tolerate other faults on a bird with good frontal.
4) ” Horns ” are the most frequent complaint on Coronas. Feathers around the ears of a bird have a tendency to grow in a different direction, and often birds with exceptional crests will display ” horns “. Don’t be fooled by the ” experts “, many best in show birds have been dressed a little bit before being staged. Try to breed the fault out, but an outstanding bird should never be discarded based on one criteria alone, as long as this fault is not a congenital problem.
5) Try to stay away from birds with very small crests, they always look silly. Sometimes they will remind you of your first Gloster, but that is not always a good thing. A good Gloster is a balanced bird, with the top in proportion to the rest of the body. I would rather have a bird with a ” heavy ” top for breeding purposes.
6) It takes years, sometimes decades, to breed good Coronas. If you have good ones, make sure you maintain them by pairing them to quality related birds. If you don’t have good Coronas, go out and get some. They won’t appear by magic. You won’t live long enough to repeat the work of generations of skilled breeders.
WHICH CONSORTS TO KEEP
1) If your goal is to exhibit (and win with) Consorts, then you must focus on Consorts. Although today show Consorts don’t need the heavy brows that we saw in the past, you still need to focus on that bold head in order to attract the attention of the judge. No matter what your theory is, in the end the judges will have the last word.
2) Breeding Consorts does not have the genetic intricacies of the Corona, it is much more straight forward. However, one needs to keep the ideal in mind.
3) The most successful show Consorts are usually from lines of larger birds, which only confirms their incompatibility with their Corona partners. The small, neat Consort with very tight feathering (required in the exhibition Corona) is rarely a hit on the showbench. Proof to this is the fact that good exhibition yellows (intensive, hard feather), are always from lines of powerful Consorts. Again the tight yellows never make it to the top.
4) There is nothing wrong with using a Corona partner in order to produce Consorts, as a matter of fact it is what most people do, but you have to make sure that the Corona used is from a line of good Consorts, otherwise you will destroy the heads of your Consorts. And it is of course very difficult to evaluate the impact of a Corona on the Consort head, you must rely on the close relatives of the Corona as an indicator.
5) There will always be exceptions to a rule, but in most cases some families produce better Consorts while others produce better Coronas. This is true even within the same line. We Gloster breeders don’t have to be afraid of this reality. Instead, we have to understand it and use it to our advantage.
6) If your aim is to produce the best Corona possible, then the rules are inverted, i.e. you must use the Consorts most closely related to your best Coronas. Most of these Consorts would never make it to the show bench. But if you are to be successful, you must learn this technique, otherwise it does not matter how many good Coronas you bring in, you will systematically destroy them by using your ” better ” Consorts.
7) Always use the Consorts that are the most closely related to your best Coronas. Do not even evaluate the head qualities on these Consorts, that is not their purpose.
However, because the difficulty of producing the right crest forced you to compromise when selecting your Coronas, you must be very critical of the Consort’s other features, because they will be badly needed to compensate for your Coronas’ weaknesses.
In other words, since you can only get your good crest from your Corona, you may have to tolerate other faults, but these faults should not be found on your Consorts.
The above rules may seem quite obvious, but trying to apply them all at the same time when making your selection might prove to be quite an interesting exercise !
Printed with permission of Robert Larochelle – Canada